The men’s event has enormous depth with any one of five skaters able to take the top spot. Newly-crowned American men’s champion Jeremy Abbott has been unstoppable this season and has to be one of the heavy favourites, especially after his winning performance at the ISU Grand Prix Final.
Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka, silver medallist at the Grand Prix Final, will undoubtedly be in the mix as will teammate, Nobunari Oda.
Oda, who was out of competition all of last season, is the dark horse in this race. Oda is a real threat on paper with his style, musicality and athletic ability, but will the year out of the loop have been too long to be out of sight and therefore out of mind?
Despite his fifth-place finish at the Grand Prix Final, Canada’s two-time national champion, Patrick Chan, is fresh from a dazzling Canadian championship where his short program would have been hard to beat by anyone on the current world scene.
One of the moments of the competition will be to see Japan’s Mao Asada, the defending world champion, and rival Yu-Na Kim of Korea, a two-time world bronze medallist, go head to head.
In their last meeting at the Grand Prix Final, it was Asada who took the gold in a show of steely determination. All things being equal and with a clean skate from both skaters, it should be Kim who takes the title in Vancouver with her mesmerizing musicality, grace and superb technicality.
That said, the only woman so far this season to skate a clean free program is Canada’s five-time champion, Joannie Rochette, who has the skills and the ability to be a real threat in this competition.
Virtue and Moir favoured
In ice dance, Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the defending world silver medallists, should have no difficulty coming out on top despite the fact this is their first international and only their second competition this season as Virtue recovered from surgery in the fall.
American ice dance champions, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, have been skating well all season and there’s no reason to expect that will change in Vancouver, making them a sure bet for the podium.
Canada’s other two dance teams, national silver medallists Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier and bronze medallists Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje are still relatively fresh faces on the senior international ice dance scene, but will be looking to make their mark and showcase their enormous potential.
By reputation, Canada’s Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison, the defending world bronze medallists, should be facing their toughest competition in the pairs event from Dan Zhang and Hao Zhang of China, the defending world silver medallists.
In truth, the pairs field has been wide open this season with no pair grabbing - or holding - the lead from the short through the free program in any event.
Some secret weapons that could make for a real medal race at Four Continents? The Grand Prix Final title winning free program from China’s Qing Pang and Jian Tong, the gutsy competitiveness shown by Canada’s Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin and the youthful energy from Americans Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker.
The Four Continents figure skating championships will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca beginning Wednesday. Click here for the schedule.
Ladies: Yu-Na Kim (KOR)
Men: Patrick Chan (CAN)
Pairs: Qing Pang and Jian Tong (CHN)
Dance: Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN)
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